SWINDON Borough Council has decided to take a different approach in a bid to stop a dozen phone booths being installed in the town centre.

In its battle to combat street clutter, the council is to contact the government to request powers to have a say whether adverts placed on the side of phone booths or not.

As it stands, the adverts have ‘deemed consent’, which means the council is not in a position to object, but a recent planning appeal has forced its hand.

In 2013, Infocus Public Networks applied to install 15 solar-powered booths around the town but this was rejected by the council as it felt they were not needed as mobile phones had become so widespread.

The council has a policy of reducing street clutter, such as phone booths, which it says make it harder for some disabled people and parents with pushchairs.

However, the company appealed the decision and a planning inspector overturned the council decision, saying 12 could be built. As a result, the council are now seeking the extra powers by writing the Minister for Local Government.

In a report to planning committee, Councillor Garry Perkins (Con, Haydon Wick), the cabinet member responsible for the town centre, said: “The need for control and to regulate this type of advertisement has become more urgent because ‘prior approval’ has been granted on appeal by a Planning Inspector for 12 large telephone kiosks at prominent locations in Swindon town centre.

“It is considered that these kiosks would have a highly detrimental impact on the town centre should they be installed.

“Given that telephone kiosks are no longer financially viable due to the popularity of mobile phones, there is no doubt that the motive behind the proposed installation of the telephone kiosks is the income that would be generated by the promoters of the scheme by placing adverts on the kiosks.”

Council chiefs insist this will not mean all advertising will be stopped but are keen to make sure they keep control of the town centre.

Coun Perkins said: “The council has implemented significant public realm improvements in Swindon town centre. The council has also been pursuing a policy of removing street clutter from the town centre. This policy has been delivering benefits for users of the town centre, and in particular for people with push chairs or buggies, people in wheel chairs and people with physical disabilities.

“If ‘deemed consent’ were to be removed, electronic communications code systems operators such as Infocus Public Networks and BT would need to apply to the council for permission to display the advertisements. Where an application proposal would have an adverse impact on the town centre it would be refused.”